Author : Jacob Lothyan
“It’s an old family story. A mystery, really. Or was. I just know it meant a lot to my dad, his dad, and so on. That’s the only reason I held on to it.
“So it goes, my great great-grandfather worked at the Santa Fe Depot in Leavenworth—first city of Kansas, you know? He worked there until the day they closed the line. He passed on shortly thereafter. He loved that station. Loved the trains. Practically ran the place before all was said and done.
“They had these storage lockers there, for packages that were sent ahead, or left behind. A few months before the line was to be shut down, my great great-grandfather took an ad out in the paper. Wanted to tell anyone who had things in the lockers they would lose their stuff if it wasn’t claimed. Well, the day came and went, the trains stopped coming, the line closed. Only one locker went unclaimed. It contained an old telegraph that was never picked up, put there for safekeeping.”
Lou laid the yellowed, tattered paper on the slick, glossy table top. Several men leaned over to examine it. It read, simply:
dear terrance matthews [STOP]
the apparatus does not travel [STOP]
The men stared wide-eyed and slack-jawed. Lou delicately retrieved the paper, causing several of the men to gasp, folded it lightly, and slid it back into its protective case.
“My great great-grandfather, he tried to find Terrance Matthews. He went to the police station and they told him he did everything he should have. They told him he could trash the telegraph. He asked if he could keep it. They said yes.
“Now, in time since, my family has done a lot of work on this letter. It became somewhat of a project. Terrance Matthews, other than the Terrance Matthews you all know, he was a great man. He pioneered much of the technology and science that led to commercial air travel. Space travel, even. He had his fingers in every single technological advance in his time. He made himself a small fortune. Funny thing is, most of his fortune was spent trying to keep his name out of the headlines. Quite successfully, too. He was more of a legend, a myth, than a man.
“We couldn’t find anything about his early life, though. Not even a birth certificate. Nothing.
“It was a mystery. Until yesterday morning. I read this.”
Lou laid his personal data device—a thin flat card—on the table. The table auto-synced with the card and quickly populated the tabletop with a task menu. “News,” said Lou. The table responded, filling its entire length and width with the days top news stories. “Previous day,” said Lou. The headlines and dates shifted. “A-1,” said Lou. One of the many stories expanded to include full text and photos. The headline read, Terrance Matthews to Attempt Time-Travel.
“It sort of all made sense after that. Gave me goose chills and everything. Hundreds of years my family has been on this. And I cracked it.
“Funny thing, though. Airplanes pretty much put the trains, the depot lockers, out of business. Figure a smart guy like that would of thought of that.
“Anyway, I want to warn him myself. Terrance Matthews, that is.”
The men standing around the table all looked sickly pale. Some of them had tears welling in their eyes. Others just looked afraid. One of them, shaking slightly in the hands, mumbled, “But he traveled this morning.”